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102 Years of Burnden Park: Part One

Eddie takes a long and detailed look at Wanderers' former home

A section of the crowd at Burnden Park, 1933
The Bolton Evening News Burnden Years Special, 1996

The 25th April 2017 marks twenty years since the last game at Burnden Park, the former home of Bolton Wanderers.

Many Wanderers fans will have begun their love affair with the club watching the likes of Nat Lofthouse, Frank Worthington or John McGinlay grace the Burnden turf.

For 102 years, Bolton Wanderers called Burnden home, so here's a look at the entire history of Burnden; from construction to demolition.

The Beginning

Pike's Lane, Bolton Wanderers' first ground (also the ground where Kenny Davenport scored the first league goal in world football), was unpopular with fans and players. The inadequate facilities and poor standard of pitch made it a necessary decision to find a more fitting home for the club.

In order to raise the £4000 (£484,000 in today's money) to build the new stadium, Bolton Wanderers became a limited company in 1894, selling shares to raise the funds.

Wanderers played their last game at Pike's Lane on 13th April 1895, beating West Bromwich Albion 5-0.

After work was finished in August 1895, Burnden Park was officially opened; with the new stadium hosting an athletics event.

Burnden Park, 1895
BEN - The Burnden Years 1996

Bolton Wanderers first played at Burnden on 11th September 1895, losing a friendly game 1-0 to Preston North End.

The first league game was just three days later, as Bolton Wanderers beat Everton 3-1 in front of a crowd of around 15,000.

The first match report from Burnden Park, 16th September 1895
The Bolton Evening News

The Bolton Evening News gave their opinion on Wanderers' new home, stating:

"On the whole, the spectators, including visitors from outside, were favourably impressed with the equipment of the ground, but it is to be hoped that in the near future the directors will see their way to provide a press-box, as the present accommodation on the grand stand, though comfortable enough, is dreadfully inconvenient for dispatch. In this respect, alone is the enclosure behind such grounds as Ewood, Goodison, Perry Barr, Bramall Lane, Sunderland etc."

Bolton Wanderers would go on to finish fourth in the First Divison, winning twelve and losing only once in their fifteen games at Burnden Park.

The FA Cup Final

Long before there was Wembley Stadium, the FA Cup final was held at a number of grounds. The Oval, Goodison Park and Crystal Palace all had the honour of hosting the most prestigious cup competition in the world. In 1901, the final was between Tottenham Hotspur and Sheffield United. After a 2-2 draw at Crystal Palace, the replay was held at Burnden Park.

In front of a crowd of 20,740, Tottenham became the first (and still only) non-league side the lift the cup, beating The Blades 3-1.

Improvements on and off the pitch

Bolton Wanderers were in a transition at the same time as Burnden Park. On the pitch, Wanderers were back in the Second Division in 1903, just three years after gaining promotion back to the First Division. It was whilst in Division 2 that Wanderers reached their 2nd FA Cup final, although they lost 1-0 to Manchester City at Crystal Palace in 1904.

Here's footage of Bolton facing Burton United at Burnden Park in the 1904/1905 season.

Bolton were promoted back to Division One in the 1904/1905 season, around the same time that Burnden Park began to improve. The cycling track was removed in the Summer of 1905 to make more room for spectators.

At the same time, the Manchester Road Stand was built at a cost of £3500. The new construction provided accommodation for 6000 spectators, 3420 of whom could be seated.

The Great Lever Stand was also built soon after, with construction of both stands handled by local company John Booth and sons, whose name was visible from the Great Lever Stand roof.

The Charles Foweraker Era

After the departure of long serving mannager John Summerville in 1910 due to Bolton’s relegation to the Second Division, Will Settle was appointed to steer Bolton back to top flight. He managed that in his first season, keeping Bolton in Division 1 until his departure in 1915. When English football went on a hiatus due to the First World War, Tom Mather took over managerial duties.

However, Mather was soon called up to join the Royal Navy, so his assistant, Charles Foweraker, was named as caretaker manager.

Foweraker, who had previously worked at Burnden Park as a gateman and ticket checker, handled Mather's duties until after the war. When the war was over and English football resumed, Foweraker was officially named as Bolton's manager.

You may or may know, but Charles Foweraker is Bolton Wanderers' most successful and longest serving manager. Foweraker managed 912 games for Bolton, and led the club to three FA Cup triumphs between 1923 and 1929. Foweraker also led Wanderers to third placed finishes in the top flight in 1921 and 1925, still their highest league finishes to a season.

Foweraker was blessed with some of Bolton’s greatest players. From the striking partnership of Joe Smith and David Jack, to the greatest Wanderers captain Harry Goslin, Foweraker certainly managed during a big part of Bolton's history.

It was also Foweraker that handed a debut to fifteen year old Nat Lofthouse in 1941 during the Second World War.

In July 1938 Foweraker was presented with the Football League's Long Service Medal in recognition of more than 21 years' service to the club. Charles Foweraker was forced to step down as manager in 1944 due to ill health, and passed away in July 1950 aged 73.